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Los Angeles and Orange Counties on Verge of Move to Less Restrictive Reopening Tier

Los Angeles and Orange counties moved closer to another round of reopenings Tuesday when state officials released figures that indicated they are eligible to move into the orange tier of pandemic restrictions.

Qualifying for the orange tier requires a county to have an average daily rate of new COVID infections of 3.9 per 100,000 residents, along with a testing-positivity rate of 4.9% or less, and maintain those levels for two consecutive weeks.

Los Angeles County fell into the orange-tier range last week, with a case rate of 3.7 per 100,000 residents, and a testing-positivity rate of 1.8%. The county met the criteria again when the state released updated numbers Tuesday, allowing it to officially qualify to move out of the red tier and into the orange tier.

In Orange County, the case rate per 100,000 people dropped from 2.9 on Sunday to 2.8 Monday. The positivity rate was at 1.7% on Monday and at 2.6% for the health equity index, which measures infection rates in underprivileged communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

However, it’s unclear exactly when the counties will be able to make the move to orange. State rules require counties to remain in a tier for three weeks before it can advance in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

Los Angeles County officially entered the red tier on March 12, so it technically cannot advance to orange until Friday. The county, however, may opt to wait until next week before loosening any more business restrictions in accordance with orange-tier guidelines. The county delayed a move to red-tier guidelines for three days to give business owners time to made required adjustments.

Moving to the orange tier would authorize the county to lift all capacity restrictions at retail and personal care businesses, while raising the capacity limit from 25% to 50% for movie theaters, churches, museums, zoos, aquariums and restaurants. Fitness center capacity could be increased from 10% to 25%. The orange tier also would allow for bars to reopen outdoors, while card rooms and family entertainment centers could be cleared to resume indoor operations.

Orange County CEO Frank Kim said the move could happen Wednesday.

“They will allow us to move into the orange tier Wednesday as long as they give us the green light (Tuesday),” Kim said earlier this week.

Orange County has qualified for the yellow tier in positivity rates for the last six days, but it will take a while for the county to move up to that least-restrictive tier because the case rate must fall below one, Kim said.